Lake County resident, Cheri Bontrager’s first experience with the American Red Cross involved handing out water to first responders at a Georgia fire station during a flood. She was 12 years old. A strong desire to help those in need took root in the heart of that 12-year-old and has stayed with her ever since.
In 2010, again in a flood, this time in Nashville, TN, Cheri helped disseminate vital information such as how to safely get to the local shelters to the people affected. When the floods receded, she assisted the demolition and clean-up crews working shoulder-to-shoulder with Red Cross volunteers.
Cheri and her family moved to Lake County in November 2014 where her husband took a teaching position at Kelseyville High School. Upon finding out that the Red Cross was using Kelseyville High School as one of the two Red Cross evacuation centers due to the Rocky Fire, Cheri thought “Let me see if they need some help.”
At Kelseyville, Cheri met fellow Lake County resident and Red Cross volunteer, Monica Nieto. “Because she was at the school where my husband teaches and it felt like I was in the right place. I spoke to her Monday morning [August 3, 2015] and filled out an application to be an EBV that same morning,” shared Cheri.
EVBs, or Event Based Volunteers, are people who, during active disaster relief efforts, feel compelled to help in whatever way is needed and often do so simply by walking into an active shelter and asking to become volunteers. Many EBVs become passionate, long-term volunteers. For her part, Cheri says, “I’ve always been around when this stuff [natural disasters] happens. I felt this time that I wanted to do something more permanent. With the Red Cross – it’s an organization that I can join and get some training with disaster relief and just helping people.”
After filling out her volunteer application at http://tinyurl.com/ARCBAvolapplication, Cheri took some online Red Cross courses about volunteering in a shelter – laptops are setup at the Middletown shelter to help get volunteers trained as quickly as possible. Two days later, on Wednesday, August 5th, Cheri walked through the doors at Middletown High School ecstatic for her first shift as an official Red Cross volunteer.
As a Red Cross volunteer, Cheri really wants to “do more field work or one-on-one [client casework].” But she adds, “I also enjoy photography. I have interests that could be good for volunteer work.” When asked why not only sign up to volunteer now, but why be a long-term volunteer, Cheri responds, “This is just who I am. I can’t sit around and do nothing.”